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Philadelphia Spotlight: August 2006

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Maria Möller and Bradley K. Wrenn
in Twelfth Night
(© J.J. Tiziou)
If you are a resident and staying away from the shore or you're a visitor planning a vacation to the Philadelphia area, August is an excellent month to sample the city's bustling theater scene.

The suburban troupe Theatre Horizon appears poised to make a name for itself with their production of Tony award winner Richard Greenberg's The Violet Hour (August 1-12). Set in the 1920's, Greenberg's quick-witted look at the world of publishing features Barrymore award winner Mike Dees along with Barrymore nominees Jered McLenigan and Karen Vicks.

The Philadelphia Shakespeare Festival's Young Professional Company is taking a unique approach to the Bard's Two Gentleman of Verona (August 2-20). Under the direction of the talented Dominick Scudera, the free production is set to a soundtrack featuring the Beatles' early hits. And you'll find another innovative-and free-production of the Bard's work in West Philly's Clark Park. Shakespeare in Clark Park is mounting a production of Twelfth Night (August 3-6) that incorporates both the bucolic park setting and the surrounding West Philly neighborhood. Red-hot director Tom Reing helms a veteran ensemble in a taut, shortened version of the comedy.

You'll have to hustle, but you still have time to catch Theater Catalyst's terrific production of local playwright Michael Friel's wonderful new play The Children of Fatima (through August 6). The sleeper hit of the summer season, Friel's insightful comedy focuses on an adolescent Catholic school student struggling to overcome the fear instilled in him by a rigorous nun and overbearing mother.

It's not too early to start planning for the Philadelphia Live Arts Festival and Philly Fringe (September 1-16). Tickets go on sale this month, and if you don't act now you might miss out on some of the festival's more anticipated shows. No single event has had a bigger impact on the Philadelphia Theater scene, and no local theater has contributed more to the festival than the Pig Iron Theatre Company, which is remounting its startlingly original new work Love Unpunished (September 10-17). In the abstract and physical Unpunished, director Dan Rothenberg and choreographer David Brick take us inside the World Trade Center the morning of September 11, 2001. Existing somewhere between illusion and reality, life and death, Unpunished is a deeply personal and enormously affecting theatrical experience that is as significant as it is thoughtful.

If it's rough and rowdy fun you're looking for at the festival, you won't do better than Brat Productions' hell-raising musical Eye-95 Retarred (August 29-September 16). Originally staged at the first Fringe festival in 1997, the story involves a poverty-stricken cheerleader attempting to escape her unfortunate past. A sleazy, scruffy hoe-down of a show, Eye-95 epitomized the Fringe's free spirit. The new version reportedly features dramatically higher production values, and considering the success Brat has enjoyed in the last decade, it should be one of the Festival's hottest tickets.

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